As the debate over the application by investor Raffique Dunbar to remove a coral reef from Indian Bay that he says is dead, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves wants the Vincentian public to consider a question:
“Anybody really thinks that a serious modern investor is going to want to destroy a live coral reef?
“Now, that is a product which they would sell also,” he further said on NBC Radio on Wednesday.
Dunbar, in his application to the Physical Planning Board, said that the reef is dead, but a number of persons have challenged this assertion.
“Now, they may be mistaken what they are asking to be done. They may be. but no one can tell me that a responsible investor in this modern world is going to want to destroy something, destroy or damage the environment, which is one the reasons they came in the first place to St. Vincent and the Grenadines to sell a product with a wholesome environment. Similarly, would anybody think that a government would want to do something to destroy the environment?” Gonsalves said.
He said that a lot of yachties used to drop anchor and damage the coral in the Tobago Cays.
“We put buoys there now and we limit the number of people in the lagoon inside the Tobago Cays,” the prime minister said.
He said it was his government that hired park rangers to ensure that all the environmental and other laws and best practices are followed in that marine park.
“So come on, let’s just let the institutions do their work. By all means, be vigilant.”
Dunbar is seeking permission from the Physical Planning and Development Board to extract a “dead/ dying” coral reef 350 feet along the coast and 50-60 feet outwards into the sea, a total area of 17,500 square feet.
He is also proposing to place a new artificial reef at about 100-150 feet from the shore — using concrete x blocks, the surface area of which will exceed that of the extracted coral.
Dunbar’s is also asking for permission to deposit imported sand in the area to increase beach width — “beach nourishment”.
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund has collected 4,163 signatures, most of them Vincentians, who oppose the removal of the reef.
Gonsalves further said that some expatriates have threatened to highlight the issue in the international media.
“But I say this, those who want to write the Miami Herald, those who want to write the New York Times, I ask a couple of questions: do they write them denouncing what the developed countries, particularly the North American countries, the USA and also Europe and also China and India are doing to despoil the environment through global warming, the climate change issues?
“Did they write and criticise Donald Trump and the US administration, as they did, out of the Paris Climate Agreement?
“When some of their out kith and kin, some, a small minority, come down here with colonial and neo-colonial attitudes, including racism against our own people, do they write the New York Times and say that some of our compatriots who come down here come down with some attitudes from a racist environment and want create problems?”
The prime minister said that in St. Vincent and other places, the grey water that comes off of places causes a lot of damage to coral.